Children in the UK who are worried that nude pictures and videos may end up online will be able to report the material to help prevent it from being uploaded in the future.
For the first time, young people will be able to flag the content with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) via a tool on Childline’s website before it has appeared online.
Under-18s will be able to flag the material via the “report remove” tool, described by the IWF as a “world first”. Analysts at the internet safety charity will then review the content and create a unique digital fingerprint known as a hash, which will be shared with tech companies to help to prevent it from being uploaded and shared.
The tool can also be used to report an image or video that has already appeared online by sharing the URL. Analysts will assess the material and work to remove it if it breaks the law. Young people must verify their age but do not need to share their real name with Childline or the IWF. Anyone who makes a report should receive feedback on the outcome in one working day.
According to the IWF, reports of self-generated images more than doubled in the first three months of this year, compared with the same period last year. A young person may have shared a sexual image with a partner that is subsequently shared without their consent, while others may have been groomed or blackmailed online.
Susie Hargreaves, the IWF chief executive, said the tool would help to give control back to young people.
She said: “Once those images are out there, it can be an incredibly lonely place for victims, and it can seem hopeless. It can also be frightening, not knowing who may have access to these images.
“This tool is a world first. It will give young people the power, and the confidence, to reclaim these images and make sure they do not fall into the wrong hands online.”
Cormac Nolan, head of the Childline Online service, said young people did not have to cope alone if they discovered a nude image of themselves had been shared online.
He said: “The impact of having a nude image shared on the internet cannot be underestimated and for many young people, it can leave them feeling extremely worried and unsure on what to do or who to turn to for support.
“That’s why Childline and the IWF have developed ‘report remove’ to provide young people a simple, safe tool that they can use to try and help them regain control over what is happening and get this content erased.”
For support, children can contact a trained Childline counsellor on 0800 1111 or via one-to-one chat on www.childline.org.uk.